You can only stay away from making pastry for so long before the desire overwhelms you like a tidal wave of flaky deliciousness … and you find yourself rolling and cutting out dough to line tart tins once more with delight.
Just me? I doubt it. But it certainly describes how I’ve been feeling for the past week or so.
I promised my father I would make some macarons this week, but not until I had made some raspberry tarts. Autumn has arrived here at last (it took a while, what with our balmy Indian summer this year) and the raspberries are having their second fruiting. I think autumn raspberries are the best. They are the sweetest, tangiest, and most delicious and fragrant of all, and one of my favourite fruits. I don’t like to fuss with them too much, preferring to let them take centre stage, atop a simple but sweet and delicate pastry. It is the perfect setting.
Don’t be alarmed … there is no chocolate in this post. Although, chocolate and raspberries? Well, that is perfection, isn’t it? Whether it be dark, milk, or white chocolate, you cannot go wrong. But I didn’t want to overwhelm them this time. So I’ve chosen a lemon thyme pastry crème to fill the tarts. It’s sweet but not overly so and has a fresh tang of its own. The lemon and herb infusion gives it a special zing. Do try to infuse the lemon thyme in the milk and cream overnight, if possible, for the best flavour.
Choose the most perfect raspberries you can find for these tarts. Whenever I make raspberry tarts, I always think of Jacques Genin (a master chocolatier and patissier of France and long time hero of mine). He is such a perfectionist, he inspects every punnet of raspberries that arrives from the market each morning and selects each single berry for his tarts, rejecting those that are not absolutely perfect. While it might seem a little obsessive compulsive, you have to applaud his passion for creating something wonderful. I must admit, I found myself inspecting and selecting the best raspberries and then lining the tarts up in perfect rows to serve them, à la Genin. Because I get where he’s coming from. It isn’t because anyone else would notice or care. They undoubtedly would not.
But I care.
I hope you enjoy these tarts. They are a simple classic with a fresh twist. The classics done well are often the best, though, are they not?
How pretty are they? I so desperately needed to make something as pretty as it is delicious. I spend so much of my time eating for fuel. These are the perfect antidote and escape. Mission accomplished 🙂
Raspberry Lemon Thyme Tarts
Lemon Thyme Crème
300 grams cream (35% fat)
200 grams whole milk
10 grams sprigs of lemon thyme*
zest of 1 medium lemon, finely grated
60 grams caster sugar
20 grams cornflour
76 grams egg yolks (4 large)
*If you don't have lemon thyme, use regular thyme and add a little extra lemon zest, about half to one teaspoon.
Pasta Frolla (Pâte Sucrée)
175 grams plain flour**
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder**
50 grams caster sugar
125 grams unsalted butter, chilled
20 grams (1 large) egg yolk
**Substitute a good quality gluten-free flour and baking powder, if you wish to make these tarts gluten-free. The texture will be less flaky and more crumbly (like shortbread) but will still be utterly delicious. This pastry lends itself well to a gluten-free version. I often make this pastry gluten-free with great results.
225 grams raspberries
pure icing sugar
Lemon Thyme Crème
Combine the cream and milk in a bowl. Remove the leaves from the lemon thyme sprigs and add them to the cream mixture. Do not add the stems, only the leaves. Add the lemon zest, and stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 6 hours, to infuse.
Have an ice bath ready before you make the crème.
In a mixing bowl, add the sugar, cornflour, and egg yolks. Whisk together until creamy, and set aside. Transfer the lemon thyme cream infusion to a saucepan and place over a low to medium heat. Bring to a simmer and slowly strain the mixture, through a fine sieve, over the egg yolk mixture, in a steady steam, whisking the egg yolk mixture continuously. Make sure to extract every last bit of flavour from the infusion, pressing the thyme leaves and lemon zest as much as possible into the sieve. Take care as you do not want any leaves or pieces of zest in the crème.
Pour the crème back into the saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir gently with a spatula until the crème thickens. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Place the bowl into the ice bath and stir with a spatula until the crème cools. The ice bath helps to cool the crème fast. Cover the surface of the crème with cling film, to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the tarts.
Pasta Frolla (Pâte Sucrée)
I made twelve individual tarts but the number of tarts you can make with this pastry will depend on the size of your tart tins (mine are 6.5 centimetres in diameter at the base). There is enough crème in the above recipe to fill more than the twelve small tarts, in case it is required. Of course, you can make one large tart, 23 - 24 centimetres in diameter, if you wish!
A good tip for making pasta frolla is to have the ingredients chilled (yes, even the flour on a hot day!)
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Prepare twelve individual tart tins on a tray and set aside (you may need more or less, if your tart tins are smaller or larger than the ones used here).
Place the flour, salt, baking powder, and caster sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse for a few seconds to aerate. Add the chilled butter cut into cubes and process for a few seconds just until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and process just until the mixture comes together to form a ball. Be careful not to over-process the dough in the processor as the machine will heat the dough and the result will be tough rather than short and flaky.
Place the pastry onto a clean surface sprinkled lightly with flour. I tend to use two sheets of silicon paper and roll out the pastry between them, to prevent it sticking. This also allows me to use less flour, which in turns leads to a flakier pastry. Flatten the pastry slightly and roll it out to a thickness of about 3-4mm. If the pastry is very soft, refrigerate it for five minutes to make it easier to cut out discs to line the tins.
Cut the pastry into rounds slightly larger than the tins. I used a disc ten centimetres in diameter, which fit the tart tins perfectly. Re roll left over scraps again and cut out more rounds. Lift them gently using a pastry scraper or palette knife and line each tin. You can use left over scraps to make frollini cookies in whatever shape you like. I hate throwing away this delicious pastry and the cookies are amazing 🙂
Cover and refrigerate the pastry for an hour or freeze for twenty to thirty minutes before baking. I tend to make the pastry the day before and freeze it until I am ready to bake it.
Prick the base of each tart with a fork and bake the tart shells for about 12 minutes until golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before gently removing from the tins. Take care as this pastry is very delicate but well worth the extra care.
Assemble the tarts as close to serving time as possible. They are at their best on the same day.
Half fill a large piping bag with the lemon thyme crème. Snip the end and pipe the crème into each cooled tart shell.
Top each tart with the raspberries and dust with icing sugar before serving. The sugar is optional and the tarts are lovely with or without it.
While these tarts are best soon after assembly, they do keep for a few days if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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